WHO: Mark Wilson
WHAT: 279-yard drive into the fairway
WHERE: 543-yard par-5 18th hole at the Palmer Course at PGA West
WHEN: Final round of the Humana Challenge
Mark is playing great golf because he's projecting so well, and he has become an expert at a skill that I call Target Projection.
In his pre-shot routine, Mark visualizes the entire shot: impact, the starting point (the spot the ball flies over 20 feet out from impact), the ball flight, where the ball lands and finally how the ball bounces and rolls to its final target. Mark uses this precise Target Projection technique with woods, irons and the putter. Doing that helps Mark relax and avoid getting caught up in mechanical swing thoughts, which he used to do while lingering over the ball way too much. To help Mark stay focused on his routine and do his Target Projection, Chris Jones, Mark's caddie, tells him before every shot, "Narrow your focus."
A huge Key in Mark's victory was driving, as he hit all six of the fairways on the back nine. Mark drove so well largely because he was focused before each shot, projecting exactly how the club would hit the ball and then how and where the ball would fly. His drive at 18 was especially strong. A huge lake runs down the entire left side of the hole, and Mark had just a one-stroke lead, so it was crucial to hit the fairway.
THE DRILL: Most golfers don't use Target Projection or visualization. Even players who attempt to use the technique often do it incorrectly because they picture the ball only sailing through the air.
The correct Target Projection technique involves visualizing the entire shot, from impact until the ball stops moving. If you're on the green, you want to see in your mind exactly how the ball will fall into the hole. On an approach shot, you should picture the exact number of bounces the ball will take on the green and then how far it will roll.
To practice Target Projection, hit shots to a practice green. Put a pole in the ground 20 feet ahead of your ball. Also place four towels on the green by dividing the green into four quadrants and putting one towel in the middle of each quadrant. On each shot, visualize how the ball will fly past the pole — on the right, the left or over the top — and then which quadrant the ball will land in. When hitting the shot, watch the ball's path to see if it flies over the pole as planned. The ball should then land on the towel in the quadrant to which you were aiming.
When playing, you likely won't hit shots as precisely as you visualize them, but that's okay. Target Projection will take your mind away from mechanical swing thoughts and dramatically increase your precision.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie is Mark Wilson's longtime instructor. He teaches at The Club at TwinEagles in Naples, Fla.